June 8, 2024
1 year ago

MIT students give legendary linear algebra professor standing ovation in last lecture

USA Today | by Saleen Martin | May 24, 2023

A viral video showing students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology clapping for a math professor during his last lecture has social media in a stir, for good reasons, of course.

Gilbert Strang has been a professor in MIT’s math department for 61 years and has been part of the MIT community for 66 years, a spokesperson for the institution told USA TODAY. 

He taught his last class on May 15, according to documentarians at the university.

In the heartwarming video that has everyone talking this week, a sea of students stand and clap for the professor, who attended MIT during his undergraduate studies.

Strang released a statement in the comment section of his last lecture on Youtube and said hearing about his impact on students almost made him reconsider retirement. It’s time to move on though, he said.

“Teaching has been a wonderful life,” he wrote. “I am so grateful to everyone who likes linear algebra and sees its importance. So many universities (and even high schools) now appreciate how beautiful it is and how valuable it is. That movement will continue because it is right.”

More on the revered professor

Strang is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, according to his website.

Over the course of his career, he published 13 books, some of which social media users have praised quite a bit online.

“Strang’s book Introduction to Applied Mathematics is another masterpiece,” tweeted Daniel O’Connor, an assistant professor at the University of San Francisco. “It deserves to be more well known.”

Strang was also praised by colleagues such as MIT professor Alan Edelman.

Calling his colleague “Gil” for short, he said the professor was “a Youtube star even before there was such a thing.”

Another colleague, Michel X. Goemans, head of the MIT Department of Mathematics, said Strang has been the longest serving faculty member in the history of the department. 

“He has had a tremendous impact on the teaching of mathematics to tens of thousands of students at MIT through his lectures, to countless … students at other academic institutions through his textbooks, and to millions of people all over the globe through his online lectures and digital media.”

Professor was among the first to upload lectures for easier access

Strang was celebrated in a series of tweets by the makers of the documentary “MIT: REGRESSIONS,” a documentary that focuses on the history of the institution.

The filmmakers who produced the documentary said he was among the first to upload his classes to MIT OpenCourseWare, a free system that launched in 2001 to provide easier access to academic materials. 

Through OpenCourseWare, educators upload their lectures and learning materials so people worldwide can learn from them. According to the makers of “MIT: REGRESSIONS,” Strang’s lectures have been viewed millions of times around the world.

Some people who have checked them out chimed in on social media to celebrate his legacy.

“Really inspiring to see the impact that Professor Strang has had on so many,” the filmmakers tweeted. “Check out our film to learn about the Institute that Gil has served for the past 60 years!”

Strang did a 2019 interview with the university and said it’s important not to rush through math. Not everyone learns the same way, he said.

“You have to sort of see the idea a few times,” he told the interviewer. “First, maybe on the board as symbols but not everybody picks up on symbols. Then you say ‘What does it mean?’ And then finally, you say, ‘Why is it true?’” 

He is also known for making his lectures humorous. When asked about it, he said it’s important to make learning “human.”

“You’re a person like the student is a person,” he said.

To check out some of his lectures, visit www.tinyurl.com/StrangOCW.

Source: MIT linear algebra professor Gil Strang’s last lecture gets ovation (usatoday.com)